On Wednesday, October 20, at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, Julia A. Kornfield (BS '83, MS '84), Caltech's Elizabeth W. Gilloon Professor of Chemical Engineering, will open the 2021–22 Watson Lecture season with a look at "Megasupramolecules: From Disaster to Discovery."
The events of 9/11 spurred Kornfield's research team to begin investigating polymers that, when added to fuels like gasoline, minimize the risk of explosion when ignited. These polymers, known as megasupramolecules, change the way liquid fuels flow and could help reduce fatalities and injuries from plane crashes, auto accidents, and IED attacks on the battlefield.
Kornfield was recruited to Caltech's faculty in 1990 and was the first woman to earn her bachelor's degree at Caltech and then return as a professor. During her time on the faculty at Caltech, Kornfield's research group has sought to understand a broad range of the macroscopic properties of polymers by studying them on a molecular level. Due to their diverse physical properties, polymers have a wide range of uses and applications in the forms of fibers, plastics, rubbers, adhesives, and coatings. The final properties of such a material depend not only on the polymer's chemical makeup but on its physical structure.
Kornfield's research group seeks to better understand the characteristics and behaviors of such polymers and to develop new uses for them that solve problems related to safety, sustainability, and human vision.
Watson Lectures are free and open to the public. The 2021–2022 Watson Lectures will be presented virtually on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. at caltech.edu/watson. Register online for this and upcoming lectures in order to add them to your calendar and receive email reminders.
Since 1922, The Earnest C. Watson Lectures have brought Caltech's most innovative scientific research to the public. The series is named for Earnest C. Watson, a professor of physics at Caltech from 1919 until 1959. Spotlighting a small selection of the pioneering research Caltech's professors are currently conducting, the Watson Lectures are geared toward a general audience as part of the Institute's ongoing commitment to benefiting the local community through education and outreach. Through a gift from the estate of Richard C. Biedebach, the lecture series has expanded to also highlight at least one assistant professor's research each season.
The Watson Lectures are part of the Caltech Signature Lecture Series, which offers a deep dive into the groundbreaking research and scientific breakthroughs at Caltech and JPL. For information, please visit events.caltech.edu.
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